International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)
Brooklyn Youth Chorus
Music by Nathan Davis
Libretto by Brendan Pelsue
Choreography by David Neumann
Puppetry by Chris M. Green
Conceived and directed by David Michalek
Presented in association with American Opera Projects
An angel’s garment, possessed of mysterious powers, falls to a remote island on Earth, where it is found by a poor fisherman. To get it back, the angel offers up her greatest celestial gift: a dance of incomparable beauty.
Dance icons and former New York City Ballet principals Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, International Contemporary Ensemble, contralto Katalin Károlyi and tenor Peter Tantsits, and puppets by Chris Green come together in this inspired reimagining of a Japanese Noh theater classic. With choreography by David Neumann, costumes by Belgian fashion icon Dries Van Noten, and an original score by Nathan Davis, Hagoromo merges genres to send a stranded spirit back to heaven.
Costumes by Dries Van Noten Lighting design by Clifton Taylor Stage design by Sara Brown Puppetry design by Chris M. Green and David Michalek Dramaturgy by Norman Frisch
BROOKLYN YOUTH CHORUS is a collective of young singers and vocal ensembles reenvisioning choral music performance through their distinctive, remarkable sound, artistic innovation, and collaboration with classical and contemporary artists. With an incredibly versatile range and unique repertoire, Brooklyn Youth Chorus combines intensive vocal training and music study with exceptional performances. The chorus has been touted by The New York Times as a “consistently bold organization” that regularly commissions and presents new music in genre-defying forms. The chorus’ after-school program encompasses multi-level training divisions and advanced performing ensembles as well as a full complement of enrichment classes and individual lessons. The chorus’ diverse student body of over 500 young people, ages 7—20, represents nearly 200 schools citywide. Classes take place at its Cobble Hill headquarters and neighborhood locations in BedfordStuyvesant and Red Hook, Brooklyn.
SARA BROWN (set designer) is a set designer for theater, dance, and opera based in Boston, MA. Her designs include World of Wires (The Kitchen, NYC; Festival d’Automne, Paris), A House in Bali (2010 Next Wave; Cal Performances), The Temperamentals (Lyric Stage Company, Boston), Island and Images from the Embers (Dana Tai Soon Burgess Co., Washington DC), The Gacy Play (Sideshow Theater, Chicago), The Shape She Makes and The Lily’s Revenge (American Repertory Theater, Cambridge, MA), Bride Widow Hag, A Bright New Boise, The Flu Season, and Twelfth Night (ART Institute, Cambridge, MA), and Mr. G (Central Square Theater, Cambridge, MA). She holds an MFA from the University of Virginia and a BA from Gustavus Adolphus College. She is currently the Director of Design for Music and Theater Arts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
REN CARILLO (puppeteer) is originally from California. He has performed in Stravinsky’s Firebird with Chris M. Green and David Neumann, Don Cristobal: Billy-Club Man with Erin Orr and Rima Fand, and Kaiser Permanentes Educational Theatre Program in Northern California. Carillo is a core member of Brooklyn based Alphabet Arts where he creates, directs, and performs puppet shows for all ages. Offstage he is a teaching artist and a licensed massage therapist.
NATHAN DAVIS (composer, music director) “writes music that deals deftly and poetically with timbre and sonority” (New York Times). Lincoln Center inaugurated the TullyScope Festival with the premiere of Davis’ landmark work Bells and presented other premieres at the Mostly Mozart Festival. Commissioned by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Calder Quartet, Yarn/Wire, La Jolla Symphony Chorus, Steven Schick, Donaueschinger Musiktage, and the Ojai Festival (with sound sculptor Trimpin), his music has been performed at NYC’s Carnegie Hall, Park Avenue Armory, Miller Theatre, Le Poisson Rouge, Roulette, in a portrait concert at Spoleto USA, and internationally at Darmstadt, Helsinki Musica Nova, Aspekte Salzburg, and Acht Brücken Köln. He has received awards from Meet The Composer, Fromm Foundation, Copland Fund, Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, and MATA. With Phyllis Chen he scored Sylvia Milo’s NYIT award-winning monodrama The Other Mozart, currently running at The Players Theatre. Recordings of his music include The Bright and Hollow Sky, one of Time Out NY’s top five classical albums of 2011.
NICHOLAS DeMAISON (conductor) is a New York-based conductor and composer whose performances include dozens of premieres of new instrumental, operatic, and choral works. He is music director of the Rensselaer Orchestra and Concert Choir at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. Recent and upcoming conducting engagements have included appearances at the Beijing Modern Music Festival (NCPA, Beijing) and Handan Grand Theater (Handan, China), premiering Mojiao Wang’s opera Encounter, Monday Evening Concert Series (Zipper Hall, Los Angeles), The Stone (NYC), Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (Troy, NY), and BAM. He has also worked on the music staff for broadcast productions with Live from Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, PBS, New York Philharmonic, Gerard Schwarz’s All-Star Orchestra, and as a music supervisor for critically acclaimed production company Giants Are Small, whose innovative multi-media concert operas have gained international attention in recent years.
JODY ELFF’s (sound designer) sound design, production, and recording credits include work with Yo-Yo Ma, Laurie Anderson, Fred Hersh, David Lang, Bang on a Can, Meredith Monk, Tan Dun, and many others. His recording credits include the Grammy-nominated Off the Map by the Silk Road Ensemble, and soundtracks for the Francis Ford Coppola films Tetro and Twixt. His live television mixing experience includes segments for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. Elff designed and engineered the sonic landscape for Theater of the New Ear, a stage presentation written by Charlie Kaufman featuring Meryl Streep. His fine art sound installations have been shown in various galleries and museums internationally, including a commissioned sound-sculpture permanently installed in a public parking facility in Lyon, France.
PEPPER FAJANS (puppeteer) is the founding director of Brooklyn Studios for Dance (BkSD), and the Brooklyn Touring Outfit. His recent work Co. Venture, created with David Vaughan and Chris M. Green, was awarded for Outstanding Choreography at the 2015 Montreal Fringe Festival and will be remounted at the Centaur Theatre in 2016. He was personal assistant to Merce Cunningham and continued to tour with the Cunningham Company as the production carpenter through the final world tour. As director of BkSD he renovated a 1920s-era gymnasium into a burgeoning dance studio.
NORMAN FRISCH (dramaturg) is an independent dramaturg, performance curator, and producer based in New York. Over the years, he has worked with many fine theater artists: Reza Abdoh & dar a luz, Bread & Puppet Theater, the Builders Association, MotiRoti, Bill Rauch, Peter Sellars, Stuart Sherman, SITI Company, and the Wooster Group, among others. Frisch has curated and co-curated a number of important international arts centers and festivals, and taught at universities in the US and abroad. He is an active member of Literary Managers & Dramaturges of the Americas (LMDA).
CATHERINE GOWL (puppeteer) has participated in national tours of War Horse; regional theater includes Electra (Pittsburgh Public Theater), Six Degrees of Separation, King Lear, Coriolanus, The Madness of George III, Cyrano de Bergerac, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Two Gentlemen of Verona (Old Globe); The Taming of the Shrew, Othello (Virginia Shakespeare Festival); and Proof. In New York, productions have included The Merchant of Venice (TFANA); Oh the Humanity and Other Exclamations, The Director, ‘Twas (Flea Theater); The Return (Metropolitan Museum), and many new works in NYC and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She is a company member with blessed unrest. She has earned a BA in history and literature from Harvard, and an MFA from the Old Globe/USD.
CHRIS M. GREEN (puppetry director) is a Brooklyn-based designer, performer, composer, and director. His theatrical, sound, and installation works have been presented over the past 18 years in venues including Lincoln Center, New York City Center, National Geographic Museum, La Jolla Playhouse, St. Ann’s Warehouse, Goethe Institute (Delhi), Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Teatro del Lago (Chile), among others. His Brooklynbased design studio Chris Green Kinetics has received awards from American Association of Museums, Themed Entertainment Association, and AIA. Recent honors include Creative Capital Award (2009), MacDowell Fellowship (2012), and LMCC Process Space residency (2013). Currently, Green is developing his new play American Weather through the HERE Resident Artist and Dream Music Programs with support from the Jim Henson Foundation. Along with wife Erin K. Orr, Green teaches an intensive performance workshop called The Language of Things both nationally and internationally.
LEAH HOFMANN (puppeteer), originally from St. Louis, MO, currently resides in New York. Broadway experience includes War Horse (Joey/ Topthorn), Big Fish; Metropolitan Opera’s The Merry Widow (FrouFrou); and internationally in Jedermann (Bear) and The Three Penny Opera at Salzburg Festspiele. National Tours: Young Frankenstein (Inga) and Radio City Christmas Spectacular (Rockette). Hofmann also builds puppets under the direction of Julian Crouch. In her spare time, she is an Etch A Sketch Artist.
INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY ENSEMBLE (ICE), described by the New York Times as “one of the most accomplished and adventurous groups in new music,” is dedicated to reshaping the way music is created and experienced. With a modular makeup of 35 leading instrumentalists, performing in forces ranging from solos to large ensembles, ICE functions as performer, presenter, and educator, advancing the music of our time by developing innovative new works and new strategies for audience engagement. ICE redefines concert music as it brings together new work and new listeners in the 21st century.
KATALIN KÁROLYI (contralto, The Angel), born in Hungary, studied singing with Noëlle Barker. She went on to set up Studio Versailles Opéra with Rachel Yakar and René Jacobs. Other conductors she has worked with include Yehudi Menuhin, William Christie, Phillip Herreweghe, Thomas Adès, and George Benjamin. Opera productions include performances at the Opéra National de Paris, Teatro alla Scala, Wiener Festwochen, Almeida Opera, BAM, and the Festival d’Aix en Provence. She has also appeared at Ravinia Festival Chicago, Salzburg Festival, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Barbican Centre, Queen Elizabeth Hall, BBC Proms, and Cité de la Musique. She frequently appears with ensembles including Ictus, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Intercontemporain, BCMG, Amadinda, Asko-Schoenberg, Musikfabrik, Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, SEM and Tambuco. She has had numerous works composed for her including Ligeti’s Sippal, Dobbal, Nádihegedüvel which she has performanced often, as well as a recording for Teldec Classics.
ROWAN MAGEE (puppeteer) was raised in Troy, NY and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College. He is a dancer, actor, teacher, and puppeteer. Currently performing with Robin Frohardt’s The Pigeoning (thepigeoning.com), Magee is also collaborating on Phantom Limb Company’s Memory Rings, a theatrical tribute to the oldest living tree in the world, and Dan Hurlin’s Depero Project, a debut of previously untranslated and unproduced puppet plays by futurist painter Fortunato Depero. He is a featured director in the 2016 Labapalooza Puppet Festival at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn.
DAVID MICHALEK (director) works in media ranging from photography, video/sound and light installations, and live performance to site-specific works of public art. His concentration has been closely tied to his interest in the contemporary person, which he explores through the use of relational aesthetics, performance techniques, storytelling, movement, and gesture. His work in video has been focused on capturing marginal moments—carefully staged—that develop density with minimal action through the interplay of image, sound, and most importantly, time. Exploring notions of durational and rhythmic time (as opposed to the referential time used in cinema) in both form and content, his works engages in intimate yet open narratives. His work has been shown nationally and internationally with recent art exhibitions or performances at the Brooklyn Museum, LA Music Center, the Louvre, Cleveland Museum, Covent Garden, Harvard University, Sadler’s Wells, Trafalgar Square, Opera Bastille, Venice Biennale, Yale University, The Kitchen, Tanz Im August, WOMAdelaide, Lincoln Center, and the Edinburgh Festival. In 2007, he was given a Bessie Award for his video installation at Lincoln Center entitled, SlowDancing. Michalek is a visiting faculty member at Yale Divinity School, where he lectures on religion and the arts. He resides in New York City with his wife, the dancer Wendy Whelan.
DAVID NEUMANN (choreographer), as artistic director of Advanced Beginner Group, has created work presented in New York at PS 122, Dance Theater Workshop, Central Park SummerStage, Celebrate Brooklyn, Symphony Space, the Whitney at Altria, The Kitchen, and New York Live Arts. Neumann and Advanced Beginner Group have received five Bessie Awards, and several grants including from Creative Capital, BUILD, Rockefeller and MAP funds. In recent years, Neumann has been awarded a 2011 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award for Dance, a 2013 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Choreography, and a 2014 MacDowell Fellowship. He was recently awarded a 2014 NDP Production Grant. More recently, Neumann directed Geoff Sobelle’s The Object Lesson at BAM and choreographed Soho Rep’s Obie Award winning production of An Octoroon. Neumann was recently awarded a 2015 Bessie Award for outstanding production for his original work I Understand Everything Better which had its world premiere at the American Dance Institute and New York premiere at Abrons Arts Center.
ERIN ORR (puppeteer) is a puppeteer and storyteller whose work ranges from a dark fairytale for adults (Savage Nursery), to a puppet circus about the real-life drama of honeybees (It’s A Bee, Honey), and a musical puppet play inspired by the Spanish Punch (Don Cristóbal, Billy-Club Man). In addition to collaborating with Chris M. Green, she has recently partnered with Cynthia Von Buhler, creating shadow puppets for Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic and a toy theater about the fratricidal habits of blue footed boobies for The Brothers Booth. She has also often puppeteered for Basil Twist, Christopher Williams, and Lake Simons.
BRENDAN PELSUE (librettist) is a playwright, librettist, and translator from Newburyport, MA. He is currently pursuing an MFA in playwriting from the Yale School of Drama, where past projects include Parking Lot, Riverbank: a Noh Play for Northerly Americans, and a translation/ adaptation of Molière’s Dom Juan. A Huntington Playwriting Fellowship finalist and one of Cutting Ball Theater’s “Risky Playwrights,” his work has been produced or developed by groups including the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Corkscrew Theater Company, Telephonic Literary Union, Tiny Dynamite, and Bay Area Playwrights Festival.
JOCK SOTO (dancer, The Fisherman) was acclaimed during his 24-year career at New York City Ballet for the incomparable skill and artistry of his partnering technique and for his versatility as a performer in both classic and contemporary neoclassical ballets. After training at the School of American Ballet, he joined NYCB in 1981 and was named a principal dancer in 1985. His extensive repertoire included leading parts in numerous works by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, and he inspired the creation of roles in new ballets by Peter Martins, Christopher Wheeldon, and other notable choreographers. He was memorably paired with Wendy Whelan in a number of ballets at NYCB, including Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, Liturgy, and After the Rain. Soto is currently a faculty member at the School of American Ballet, the official academy of New York City Ballet. His life is the subject of the award-winning documentary Water Flowing Together (2008) and the memoir Every Step You Take (HarperCollins 2011).
PETER TANTSITS (tenor, The Fisherman) has appeared on the stages of the Teatro alla Scala and the Bayerische Staatsoper. Future appearances include the title role in Dusapin’s Perelà (Staatstheater Mainz); Stockhausen’s Donnerstag aus Licht (Theater Basel); Die Soldaten (Bayerische Staatsoper); Wozzeck (Concertgebouw Amsterdam); Acis and Galatea (Festival de Belle-Île). He is also scheduled to debut with the Berlin Philharmonic, Los Angeles Opera, Netherlands RPO, Opera Philadelphia, and a return to the London Symphony Orchestra. He recently appeared at the Vienna Festwochen, Glyndebourne, Aldeburgh, Holland, and Beijing Music Festivals, and with the London Symphony Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, MDR Sinfonieorchester, and multiple times with the New York Philharmonic (including the NY premiere of Le Grand Macabre). Other recent engagements include Candide (Leipzig Gewandhaus), La Cenerentola (KonzertTheater Bern), The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit (International Händel-Festspiele), and the title role in the UK/Irish tour of The Importance of Being Earnest, including the Barbican premiere led by Thomas Adès.
CLIFTON TAYLOR (lighting designer) has created lighting, projection, and scenic designs for Broadway, off-Broadway, as well as for opera, theater, and dance companies around the world. His work at BAM has been presented with the music of Fred Ho (Journey to the West) and with many dance companies over the past 29 years. His designs for dance have been commissioned for the repertories of Alvin Ailey, Cedar Lake, Martha Graham, ABT, and San Francisco and Washington Ballets among many others. He is currently the resident designer for Karole Armitage, Philadanco, and Elisa Monte dance companies. Opera designs have included several works for New York’s Gotham Chamber Opera, BAM, New York Philharmonic’s opera presentations at Lincoln Center, and internationally.
DRIES VAN NOTEN (costume designer) sells his men’s, women’s, and accessories collections all over the world. In addition to his boutiques in Antwerp, Paris, Singapore, Kuwait, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, Van Noten works in partnership with some 400 boutiques in cities such as New York, London, Milan, Berlin, and Moscow. In 2009, he was awarded Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in Paris; the Flemish Chamber of Commerce (VOKA) inducted him into the Galerie des Eminents; the Flemish Royal Academy of Belgium gifted him with the Gold Medal (Gouden Penning), and the Couture Council of the Museum at FIT in New-York honored him with the Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion. In 2014 the work of Van Noten was featured at the musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Inspirations is the very first exhibition devoted to the artist’s work. In November 2014, Dries Van Noten was appointed president of the jury of the seventh edition of the A Shaded View on Fashion Film Festival (ASVOFF). In 2015, the Inspirations exhibition moved to Antwerp’s MoMu. This is an evolution in content and expression of the exhibition in Paris devoted to the designer’s work.
WENDY WHELAN (dancer, The Angel) was born and raised in Louisville, KY, where at the age of three she began taking dance classes with Virginia Wooton, a local teacher. At age eight she performed as a mouse with the Louisville Ballet in its annual production of The Nutcracker. Joining the Louisville Ballet Academy that year, she began intense professional training. In 1981 she received a scholarship to the summer course at the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet, and a year later she moved to New York to become a full-time student there. She was invited to become a member of the New York City Ballet corps de ballet in 1986 and was promoted to principal dancer in 1991. Whelan has performed a wide spectrum of the Balanchine repertory and worked closely with Jerome Robbins on many of his ballets. She has originated featured roles in 13 ballets for Christopher Wheeldon, as well as in the ballets of William Forsythe, Alexei Ratmansky, Wayne McGregor, Jorma Elo, Shen Wei, Jerome Robbins, and Twyla Tharp. In 2007, Whelan was nominated for an Olivier Award and a Critics Circle Award for her performances with Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. She received the 2007 Dance Magazine Award, and in 2009 was given a doctorate of Arts, honoris causa, from Bellarmine University. In 2011, she was honored with both the Jerome Robbins Award and a Bessie Award for her Sustained Achievement in Performance. In 2013, she premiered her first original production called Restless Creature at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Restless Creature has since toured to London and across the US. Whelan was recently appointed an artistic associate at New York’s City Center. She resides in New York City with her husband, the artist David Michalek.
AMERICAN OPERA PROJECTS (producer), founded in 1988, is at the forefront of the contemporary opera movement, commissioning, developing, presenting, and producing opera and music theater projects, collaborating with young, rising, and established artists, and engaging audiences in unique and transformative theatrical experiences. AOP has produced over 30 world premieres, including Kaminsky/Reed/Campbell’s As One (BAM, 2014), Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (Irondale Center, 2014), and Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (co-production with Lincoln Center Festival, 2013). Other notable premieres include Kimper/Persons’ Patience & Sarah (1998), Weisman/Rabinowitz’s Darkling (2006), Lee Hoiby’s This is the Rill Speaking (2008), and Phil Kline’s Out Cold: Zippo Songs (BAM, 2012). AOP-developed operas that premiered with coproducers include Stefan Weisman’s The Scarlet Ibis at PROTOTYPE Festival (2015), Gregory Spears’ Paul’s Case at Urban Arias (2013) and PROTOTYPE Festival and Pittsburgh Opera (2014), Jack Perla’s Love/Hate at ODC Theater with San Francisco Opera (2012), Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera (2011), Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at London’s Royal Opera House (2011), and Opera Parallèle (2015). AOP’s core programs comprise Composers & the Voice, First Chance, OPERAtion Brooklyn, I Hear America Singing, and AOP Helping Hands.
I rediscovered Hagoromo several years ago in a book of Noh plays translated by Ezra Pound. After reading it, I began to imagine how the characters of the Angel and Fisherman could be uniquely inhabited by the dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. As Wendy’s life partner, I had the privilege to closely watch her now famous partnership with Jock blossom, particularly during the years 2000—05 when, along with Christopher Wheeldon, they created one remarkable ballet after another. Like the Angel and Fisherman, Jock and Wendy embody elemental opposites: earth and sky, solid assurance and airy grace. It’s been an enormous pleasure to witness the rekindling of their unique and special chemistry after a 10-year hiatus.
This project has attempted to bring together dance and live new music, disciplines that rarely meet due to the non-overlapping values of their differing ecosystems. The plan from the beginning, cooked up by International Contemporary Ensemble artistic director Claire Chase and myself was to bring the ensemble and composer Nathan Davis into direct contact with the dramaturgical and choreographic process and vice-versa. Through this union we are attempting something that feels fresh and new: chamber dance/opera.
I am deeply proud of the artistic and administrative team that has come together around Hagoromo. They are profoundly talented individuals, but also most especially kind. And as the story of Hagoromo tells us, kindness does matter.
At the heart of Hagoromo is a single message that shines with a timely wisdom: only kindness and compassion can transform greed into giving, and profit into value.
Through a poor fisherman’s return of a magical Angel’s robe, we are reminded that works of art are most essentially valuable when they remain in circulation. The fisherman could have kept the robe, removed it from its cycle of angelic use, and transformed it into a source of his own private capital. But he didn’t and so the mystery and magic of the garment survives and so, too, an Angel’s dance. —David Michalek